00034-16 Howells v South Wales Argus

    • Date complaint received

      12th May 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00034-16 Howells v South Wales Argus

Summary of complaint

1. Gareth Howells of Up and Under Travel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the South Wales Argus breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Bus firm under fire for ban on student”, published on 4 January 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “Torfaen bus operator under fire for withdrawing transport for student with epilepsy”, on 3 January 2016. 

2. The article was the same as an article published on 23 December 2015 by a sister publication, which has a combined newsroom with the South Wales Argus.  It reported a mother’s claim that Up and Under Travel, a transport operator, could no longer take her 19-year-old daughter to college because she was “too disabled”. The article explained that the 19-year-old had been using the bus service as she had epilepsy, and was unable to take public transport to college. It stated that the mother was told by her daughter’s college that the service would no longer be suitable, as the on board escort was not trained to cope with passengers with epilepsy. The article also stated that the mother admitted that the decision may have been influenced by a recent argument that had taken place between her daughter and the on board escort. It stated that Up and Under Travel were contacted for a comment on the issue but had not provided a statement so far. 

3. The online article was the same as the print version of the article. 

4. The complainant said that the reason the 19-year-old was unable to use its bus service was for reasons other than her epilepsy. He said that either the council had misinformed the mother about the reasons her daughter could not use the bus service, or the mother had misled the newspaper. He said that when he spoke to the newspaper prior to publication, he declined to give details about the 19-year-old to protect her privacy. 

5. The newspaper said that after speaking to the mother, it telephoned the transport operator on 21 and 22 December to obtain its comments on her version of events, and left an answerphone message asking the company to call back. The reporter did not receive a response from the company prior to publication of the 23 December article in the sister publication. After publication of the 23 December article, the newspaper said that the complainant called the news desk requesting an apology and a retraction, but refused to comment on the story, instead referring the reporter to the local authority. A local authority spokesman told the reporter it would be unlikely to comment as the article was about a dispute between the family and private company. The newspaper said that the article made clear that it was reporting the comments of the 19-year-old’s mother, and did not present her claims as facts. After publication of the article, it offered the complainant the opportunity to reply. 

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i)  The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. 

ii)  A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii)   A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for. 

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. 

Findings of the Committee 

7. When the complainant spoke to the newspaper, he refused to comment on the story, and referred the reporter to the local authority. The newspaper contacted the local authority as suggested, who also declined to comment. The article was clearly presented as the mother’s account of events, making clear that the transport operator had not provided a response to these claims, and noting that an argument between the daughter and the on board escort may have formed part of the circumstances of the decision about her transport arrangements. In these circumstances, there was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information. The complainant did not know the reasons the daughter’s college had given her mother for the change in her transport arrangements. He was therefore not in the position to dispute the mother’s claim that she had been told by the college that the on board escort was not trained to cope with her daughter’s epilepsy. The Committee did not therefore establish that this claim was inaccurate, or that the article was significantly misleading such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). There was no breach of Clause 1. 


8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

9. N/A

Date complaint received: 04/01/2016
Date decision issued: 21/04/2016